Early riser here. In fact, I rarely need an alarm.
In other seasons of life, the morning came with joy. For some time now, I have struggled with negative thoughts…not so much anxiety or depression as much as a certain sense of feeling undone.
Since reading Tyler Staton’s Praying Like Monks, Living Like Fools, my morning routine has changed some. No more mindless scrolling through various social media on my phone. It is no longer within reach. Once up, I make my bed. That lifelong routine continues. However, while still in bed, just barely awake, I now do two things to clear my head and set my heart for the day.
1)I recite the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13). This is actually the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples when they asked him to teach them how to pray. Whether you have a relationship with Jesus or not, if you believe in God, this prayer is one you can embrace. A friend, younger than me, said to a small group of women recently in a study on prayer, “We should memorize the Lord’s Prayer”. It struck me as odd because, in my generation, we learned the Lord’s Prayer in school. Led by our teacher, we recited it as a whole class every day along with the Pledge of Allegiance. Whatever our religion or lack thereof. Until 1962, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled school prayer (led by teachers) unconstitutional.
This prayer helps me to turn my thoughts to God and the creeping uneasiness changes more to hopefulness.
2) I recite Psalm 23. This psalm, often referred to by its first line “The Lord is my Shepherd”, was written by David, a shepherd himself before he became king. In meditating on this psalm, I’m reminded of God’s care of his sheep. No matter what happens, he keeps his eye on us. He provides for us, anticipating our every need, and welcomes us Home to be with Him at the end of our lives.
These two passages are easy to memorize and even easier to make part of a morning routine They have done wonders for my waking to a new day.
So what does this have to do with generational trauma? I’ve written often about this previously (and strongly recommend reading these pieces if you haven’t already).
We have all experienced some sort of trauma through our families, across generations. Some (including in my own family) would rather not “go there”, and I understand. However, it is in recognizing our trauma and taking steps toward healing that helps us to avoid continuing the trauma in our children and grandchildren.
“As adults, we want the same things our children need – to be safe (no “bracing for impact” in relationships), to be seen (truly known by those most significant in our lives), to be soothed (our emotions understood and acknowledged, without judgment, even when they are big and out of proportion), and secure (that no matter what, we are loved. Our persons are NOT leaving the room).
Whatever we may have experienced as children, we can alter our present. Whatever we did as young and overwhelmed parents, we can move, with love and insight, to a better situation with our kids. The past is just that…the past. We can be truly with each other, in the here and now…if we are brave and willing to be humble.” – Deb Mills
The major component of trauma in my own life was abandonment. I don’t know about my grandparents’ childhood, but from my grandparents’ adulthood through the present, my family has felt the sting of abandonment. It is generational and can not only affect us but our children as well. Abandonment is a very real source of trauma and can actually find its way back up the family tree, if we don’t do the work of rooting it out. [The longer stories are in my blogs above.]
What better way to start each day praying to and meditating on a Father who will NEVER abandon his children!
[Below you will find further resources on generational trauma and a helpful graphic on the power of showing up.]
[Adapted from my presentation at a home-school conference – Part 1 on Raising Adults with the focus on work and responsibility can be found here.]
One of the most challenging tasks a parent has is to teach a small child how to be deferential – to respectfully give way to another, to put another first. Whew! This is a hard one. It’s not just about helping a child understand sharing. It’s our demonstrating and them seeing the value of people and taking hold of how we can serve or help them, no matter our age. Not for any reward for ourselves but just because others matter.
The battles of will that communicate “Me, me!” or “Mine, mine!” can wear us out – both parent and child.
In Part 1, we talked about work and kids’ discovery that they can make a difference. Work and exercising responsibility are their own reward. Often there is compensation, but work is a head issue – a decision made to insert ourselves into a situation for the good of all (both the worker and the larger community).
Serving is a heart issue. In the role of the server, we do ultimately benefit, but the whole focus is on the one served. Serving, by its nature, requires sacrifice, sometimes small but, even for a child, it can be substantial.
Before we dive in, let’s pray to wrap our own hearts around this. [I’m coming at this as a Christian, but this, by no means, lessens the import for those who don’t believe. The wisdom of raising adults to serve stands.]
“Father, we want to be wholly Yours. Whatever You ask of us…we want to be ready and willing. Not only to be laborers in the Harvest, but to serve with the same heart and mind that Jesus had while He walked this earth. Humble, loving, deferential to others. A servant heart, a mind bent toward You, God, a body and life laid-down in love for others. We want to be responsible and to do good work. Teach us to take our hearts even higher…or lower as the case may be…to serve as Jesus did, in Your abundant grace. In His name. Amen.”
When we model and teach work, the mindset or worldview we communicate to our children is “Get it done and done well”. In action and attitude.
“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross.” – Philippians 2:5-8
“He has shown you, O mankind, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you but to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” – Micah 6:8
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves.Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” – Philippians 2:3-4
What if, along with leading our children to be responsible, we created a culture of serving? What would our homes be like if our kiddos embraced serving as a good thing and something they were capable of? And not just for a jelly bean or a favorite TV show.
Lisa Jacobson, author, encourager and mother of 8 has a lot to say about her own experience of creating a culture of serving:
“I did things right. The way things should be done. Oh, and, of course, I was serving my family all the while. I was the sacrificial mom who cooked, laundered, and cleaned up after everyone. Most every job was done by me.
And, as a ‘shining model’ of service, I figured my children would eventually follow my example. It was obvious that I worked hard and did my best to please our family. So wouldn’t they just naturally follow in my footsteps? More is caught than taught, right? But you know something? They didn’t catch on like I thought they would. They really enjoyed being served…and it kind of stopped there. I was a good giver. They were good takers.” – Lisa Jacobson
She then discovered how to teach her children the joy of serving others:
Start by letting them work [serve] alongside you.
Teach your children to notice what needs to be done. [This one point is so worth your time reading thus far – both in working & serving – guiding our children to see, for themselves, what needs to be done. It’s a strong beginning to winning their hearts.]
Let them enjoy helping out.
Instruct them in how they can be a help to you [and others].
To bear the image of God. [“Be fruitful & multiply.” Our human calling is inextricably linked with the family where we first found our name, language, identity, and home.]
To restore the image of God. [Our distinctive calling as Christians is to actively seek out the places where that image has been lost, to place ourselves at particular risk on behalf of the victims of idolatry and injustice. So in every workplace, Christians should be those who speak up most quickly, and sacrifice their own privileges most readily, for those whose image-bearing has been compromised by that organization’s patterns of neglect. In every society, Christians should be the most active in using their talents on behalf of those the society considers marginal or unworthy. In every place where the gospel isn’t known, Christians should be finding ways to proclaim Jesus as the world’s true Lord and “the image of the invisible God.”]
To make the most of today (contingent calling). [If you get the first two right, the third is practically an afterthought. Your third calling is your contingent calling: to make the most of today, while it is called today. “Contingent” is a word used to describe something that could be otherwise—in that sense, it’s the opposite of necessary. It’s also used to describe something that depends on something else—in that sense, it’s the opposite of independent. You are in some particular place today—maybe at school, maybe on a bus, maybe in a workplace, maybe at home. And you are there with certain resources—memory, energy, reason, attention, skill. All these are contingent. It is God within these that we must learn to discern and then serve as He leads.
[Heady topics for a 2 y/o maybe…but highly teachable concepts, as well…how would we teach and model these three callings to our little ones?]
“There is one topic that I’m extremely interested in that the writers of Scripture do not seem interested in at all—and that topic is, actually, me. I am quite interested in the expressive individual that I call me—but Scripture turns out not to be interested in me hardly at all. It is somewhat more interested in me as a member of a community, connected to one of the “nations” of the earth—but really, what Scripture is interested in is God, God’s mission in the world, God’s commissioning of a people, and God’s gracious invitation to me to stop being so interested in me and start being absolutely fascinated by [Him and] his mission.” – Andy Crouch
How do we cultivate a culture of serving in our home, community – for ourselves and our children? What are you doing? What do you dream of doing? Please share in Comments below. Thanks.
As with work, so with service, we not only model but insure our children have the opportunity to contribute what only they can do – for others…whether operating out of their strengths or their weaknesses.
Looking back, I don’t think we were intentional in creating a culture of serving in our home during our kids’ childhood. It was just “easier to do it myself”, right? They had so little time, between schoolwork and their other “just being children/youth” activities. There were moments, however, bright and shining…teachable moments where they did see how serving mattered…especially when they (at whatever age) showed up to serve. Now I hope to come alongside our grown-up children to model and teach serving to the grands. In fact, it is already a reality – seeing our kids, as adults, discovering the deep joy of serving others, pushing through the awkward strain to pull back or be less present, putting others ahead of themselves.
[Adapted from my presentation at a home-school conference. Part 2 – Raising Adults – Creating a Culture of Serving can be found here.]
Being a parent is a humbling work…one way or other, it takes us to our knees at some point. In thinking about how we shape our little ones and raise them into adulthood, I was driven to prayer…a lot.
“Oh God, You have given us such crucial work in raising our children to adulthood. Help us to be faithful to live in the tension of remembering they are still small/young and yet pointing them to their place in this world and Your Kingdom. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”
In the book of Genesis, we have a beautiful picture of God’s work – His eye for detail, His gift of order – He provided everything that was needful…including work for us.
God has given us all work to do. It was His plan from the beginning… In training up our children, we will always push against the counter-pressure of entitlement in our kids’ lives (and in our own)… but we are not alone. He’s already promised that “His yoke is easy, and His burden’s light”.
The Scripture is full of wisdom pointing us toward teaching our children to become responsible adults…understanding the importance of showing up, working in whatever capacity they can.
So we built the wall and the whole wall was joined together to half its height, for the people had a mind to work. – Nehemiah 4:6
Anyone who can be trusted in little matters can also be trusted in important matters. But anyone who is dishonest in little matters will be dishonest in important matters. – Luke 16:10
Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.– Proverbs 22:6
“Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically, as something done for the Lord and not for men, knowing that you will receive the reward of an inheritance from the Lord – you serve the Lord Christ.” – Colossians 3:23-24
What goes into raising adults? Teaching our children and giving opportunity to see the value of work, to treat people and possessions appropriately, and to see themselves as a responsible part of a larger community. When does it start? Very early.
Author and parenting coach Reggie Joiner talks about the key to raising responsible adults is to give them responsibilities…now.
We are called, by God, to work…from the beginning…to have dominion…and to essentially clean up our own messes. As we learn to do that at home – caring for ourselves and contributing to our family – we can quite naturally expend the effort, and extend that, toward our larger community.
Joiner defines responsibility and counsels parents how to train it:
“Responsibility is an interesting word. It’s actually two words. Response and ability.
Do you see the link between the two concepts? If you want to raise kids to become responsible, then lead them toward a life where they develop the right attitude toward work and tasks. Give them chores at every stage.
Lead so their response reveals their ability.
Lead so their response matches their ability.
Lead so their response grows their ability.
Think about it this way: Home should be the first job every kid ever has. What kind of experiences are you giving your children to prepare them to be responsible adults?” – Reggie Joiner
Sometime ago, I was listening to a podcast from Liberty University (would have linked it but it is no longer at the original link). The guest was writer, thought leader, and world-shaker-upper Karen Swallow Prior:
Prior talks about this being the anxiety generation. Some of that anxiety revolves around the pressures coming out of social media. “There is an existential anxiety that goes with having so many choices in front of you and being afraid you’re going to make the wrong choice and miss out and go down the wrong path.” – “Everything you do in life [marriage, work, weekends] is supposed to be this huge self-fulfillment…such that you can post it on social media.” Too often, our experiences aren’t fulfilling and then the anxiety comes, “did I make the wrong choice?” – Notes from the podcast with Karen Swallow Prior
Dr. Prior supports education as a help in correcting the “tunnel vision and distorted vision” that can evolve in young people’s thinking. Work throughout our children’s growing up years can also impact thinking as well…restoring perspective.
Instead of asking: “What will keep our teens out of trouble?” “What will make them happy?” or “What will get them into college?”, we need to switch our focus to a different set of queries: “How can we introduce realistic elements of adulthood into their worlds?” What activities best provide real feedback about their effort and skill?” and “Which other adults can we recruit to help pass our values on to them?” In short, we need to switch our focus from activities that reflect living happily as a teenager to activities that let our young people actually use their energy, connect with adults, and make choices that matter in order to begin moving successfully into adulthood. – Allen & Allen
In their helps for parents of teens (and younger children), the Allen’s coach how to guide kids to become contributing members of the family, how to give genuine, real-world feedback toward maturity, how to connect their kids with role model adults (including the parents themselves), and how to positively stretch their kids toward skill- and confidence-building.
Writer and stylist Jo-lynne Shaneshares a ‘raising adults” system she used with her three children.
[Her] system based on the following principles:
logical consequences vs discipline and anger
choices vs commands
questions vs lectures
no idle threats
You see, when you allow them to experience the natural consequences of their choices rather than resorting to nagging, yelling, idle threats, and unrelated punishments, you put the responsibility for their actions on their shoulders. Too often parents make their kids’ problems their problems. Then the parents get angry and the kids learn nothing.
By giving them choices rather than commands, they don’t have the option to disobey. The key is to give only choices that you can live with, and then to be willing to follow through.
Asking questions instead of lecturing encourages kids to think for themselves and be discerning. – Jo-lynne Shane
All our children are, bit by bit, becoming adults. [Like we are often told, it comes faster than we can imagine.] We as parents recognize the adult inside each one and build scaffolding, just enough support, to help each child grow into that adult. At every age, they can see it matters that they show up. It matters.
This week we have a special guest in our home. Dave’s mom. I don’t know about your relationship with your mother-in-law. Hopefully it is a good one. If not, I’m genuinely sorry. If there is any chance at all, don’t miss her…you never know what she would bring to your life if invited (back) in.
My mom-in-law prays. Her life has been one of serving others. Now, she is somewhat slowed down, but her devotion to God and others is still very much alive. Some might say hers is a small life…as my own mom’s appeared to be…to outsiders. This is not so for either of them. Where they lacked ambition to be known or powerful, there was/is no lack of love and wisdom. On the things that matter most.
When she comes to visit, we scramble to find the tv programming that she’s used to…encouraging to her. It’s nothing we watch really when she isn’t here, but when she is here, we catch some of the great music, teaching and reporting she listens to regularly.
Here’s an example. Tonight she was watching Kirk Cameron‘s Takeaways. He had two entertainers on his interview docket for this show. Mark Lowery and Zach Williams. I joined her for the Zach Williams’ interview. I’ve written about his music a couple of times. Gritty lyrics, great deep voice. He knows how to connect with his audiences – whether an arena of church folks or a prison cafeteria. He has stories to tell that touch people – a life going one direction with success as a musician, including drugs, fast living, and a marriage unraveling. Then his life turned quite a different direction.
The Takeaways interview isn’t linked yet, but below are two videos of Zach’s story.
We don’t have to keep going down a road leading nowhere good. I have that in my own life story. It’s for another day, but I’m thankful for my sweet mother-in-law who points us to life-giving attention-getters.
Prayer, focus on truth, and sacrificial love are three great gifts she gives us, whether sitting in our family room, or operating out of her own home.
Who or what helps you to shake off the doldrums and points you to a life of greater purpose and joy? Tonight my attention is captured by a a musician’s experience of a God who was never far from him. When Zach Williams was shaken in his tracks and turned his attention…God was there.
Thankful for a praying mom, mom-in-law, and grandmothers who remind us of a way to live that gives hope, joy, and real confidence. Enjoy some of Zach’s music below…and one piece by Brandon Lake about a praying grandma.
Foster mom Jamie Finn posted on the first year of a baby’s life and how vital it is to build that foundation of secure attachment:
“Baby has a need, baby cries, attuned caregiver meets need, baby learns to trust. This is the basic foundation of the attachment cycle.
And it’s the foundation for every relationship and interaction a person has with the surrounding world from that point forward. Secure attachment teaches the child’s brain & body & beliefs: I am safe, people are trustworthy, the world makes sense.
The first year of life is the most developmentally significant, formative time of a child’s life.
The moments of motherhood that make up the first few months of a baby’s life go far beyond the present and profoundly impact the future of that little person. Every cry that’s responded to, need that’s met, and discomfort that’s soothed actually changes the brain’s chemistry and structure, the body’s ability to regulate and feel safe—the complete trajectory of a child’s life.
I don’t know how long this little one will be with me, and I don’t know if he’ll have memories of me. But I know that his brain and body will remember my nurturing care, and it will change his life forever.” – Jamie Finn
3) Unexpected Wisdom – We have a subscription to The Richmond Forum. It’s a lecture series with world-renowned speakers. Some are politicians, some actors, some writers, some private and public sector leaders, and all influencers. Two of my favorite speakers this year were actor and arts education advocate John Lithgow and a dialog between Dr. Cornel West and Thomas Chatterton Williams. The West and Williams dialog centered on “the absolute condemnation of no one”. Brilliant and redemptive!
Below are samples of their work including a longer version of the West/Williams conversation on another platform. Don’t miss it.
4) Confessional Communities – My absolute favorite podcast is Dr. Curt Thompson‘s Being Known. I’ve been listening (watching on YouTube) ever since Dr. Curt Thompson’s books changed my understanding of the mind/brain and community.
This season’s podcast focuses on confessional communities and if you only listen to one before you will want to listen to them all, here‘s the one.
“We need others to bear witness to our deepest longings, our greatest joys, our most painful shame, and all the rest in order to have any sense at all of ourselves.”— Curt Thompson, MD
Confessional communities are not therapeutic groups as we have traditionally known as group therapy. However, they are also more than a Bible-study oriented small group, the kind we might experience as part of a church curriculum. Confessional communities require commitment of a deeper nature from participants who are willing to explore attachment, attunement, presence, and vulnerability – extending welcome and experiencing welcome, all seeking to be known and truly know and affirm each other.
Read Thompson’s books and listen/watch his podcasts for an excellent introduction to this process. I would love to be part of a confessional community…it will happen.
5) Funerals – Why a fave? Well…it comes after watching a British series involving an undertaker (the show had a great story-line but very adult-themed so will leave it at that). The funeral conversations, preparation, and executions were both poignant, sometimes oddly funny, and beautiful.
I was reminded of the funerals of people close to me – young nephew, parents, brother, father-in-law, uncles, aunts, friends and colleagues. It was a privilege to be present for many of these. Some we had to watch via live-stream which itself was a blessing…a perk that came out of the COVID era.
Looking back at images from our mom’s funeral and then our dad’s some 15 years later, memories washed over me. How honored they were by those officiating, how healing the conversations with family and friends (some whom we hadn’t seen in too many years). The care given to detail. The time given to both grieve their passing and celebrate their lives. Such a mix of emotions. Completely thankful for the gathering and strengthening of community that funerals facilitate.
Cremation is replacing burial more these days. We are rethinking our own choices on this. However, having a funeral is something I want for our children and grandchildren, in particular. Not for my sake but for theirs. They may not want this, and I get it, but my hope is they have helps to reflect, remember, and reorient. A funeral, or celebration of life, or memorial service – whatever it’s called makes a difference.
[Here’s the full quote found in his forthcoming book, “All God’s Children” “Everyone is welcome” is drastically different from “we built this with you in mind.” People don’t want to go where they are merely tolerated, they want to go where they are included.”]
Fathering…it’s an intriguing topic for me, and I’ve written a lot on it [see here].
My biological father was fairly absent from my life. Even before he and my mom divorced. Our father’s own abandonment of us had an impact on us kids developmentally (even possibly affecting how we parent today).
Fortunately I had a kind and loving step-father. Sadly missed by his first family as he poured himself into my siblings and me. He tried to love them well, too…but…
My mom’s dad was an alcoholic who dealt poorly with the Great Depression and his inability to provide well for his family… isolating himself from his children. I remember as a child following him around the woods when we visited. Wish I could have known him better.
The father of my own children was and is a present, loving dad to our bunch. I hope they feel how much he loves them…still and always.
You have your own fathering stories.
“Fathering, like mothering, is not an easy job. So much dying to self. So much responsibility. What a delight for us when the men in our lives take fathering on their shoulders as they might a sleeping child. Surrendering themselves to the serving of those younger than them. I thank God for men who humble themselves in prayer for their children and who go to work every day to support their families. Working, studying, and life-long learning passed on to their children and others.
These dads are too-often taken for granted in the shadow of fathering that falls short. The absent, neglectful and downright abusive fathers cut wounds so deep that decent fathers are sometimes judged by the same measure. We watch for “the sins of the fathers to be revisited on their children” (Numbers 14:18).
Today, let’s reflect on the good fathers. Those who were present at our births, or those who came later in life to us, or those who father us out of their own great hearts. Imperfect, sure. All of us are. Yet, there are those men who go many more than second miles for us, and we are grateful.” – Deb Mills
In thinking about fathers, with the approach of Father’s Day here in the US, I pulled all the books on fathering from my bookshelves. There weren’t many (more on parenting, but just these few on fathering itself). Maybe we miss the crucial nature of this role in children’s lives, such that we don’t feel training is needed. I don’t know.
Adaptability means you handle stress and what is coming at you as a dad in healthy and effective ways. It also means you have the mental flexibility to help your child feel understood and noticed by you.
Respect brings you fully present to your family. Through respect, you model looking inward and managing yourself well so you can listen, see, effectively respond to, and love all image bearers of Christ that surround you each day.
Intentionality helps you create goals and focus on what you’re building in your children’s lives. Intentional affection, instruction, conversations, mealtimes, playtimes, and encouraging words can all have life-giving impacts on your family.
Steadfast love allows you to love deeply and give your family the strength that stems from a father’s unconditional love.
Boundaries allow you to model and teach healthy ways to engage with opportunities, relationships, and interests.
Grace and forgiveness present the ministry of reconciliation that Jesus began through his death and resurrection. A dad can truly make his home debt-free and spiritually strengthened by modeling grace and forgiveness.
Gratitude provides a father with a loving and humble perspective that helps him lead his family well.
Parenting is challenging for sure. Through all the seasons and stages of life. From the birth of our children through when they are grown…really until we are gone. Challenging, but also a beautiful work of the heart and mind, as we seek to win the challenge. For our children’s sake, and for our own. If we weren’t fathered well, we can determine to take the steps for it not to continue in our own parenting. The resources we have available to parent well today are plentiful.
We can be grateful for good fathers and hopeful for those overwhelmed by (or unfortunately unaware of) the challenge of parenting well.
“…Let’s live in hope that those fathers who struggle to be present or loving may one day gather themselves together, awaken to what was left behind, and reach out to the treasures they missed along the way…and may they find us within reach.” – Deb Mills
“As to my children, you are now to be left fatherless, which I hope will be an inducement to you all to seek a Father who will never fail you.” – Rev. Jonathan Edwards, his last words to his children, as he lay dying.
The Audacity of Calling God “Father” If I call God “God” I speak truthfully. If I call God “Lord” I speak submissively. If I call God “King” I speak servilely.
But if I dare to call God “my Father,” I speak with a brassy audacity, chutzpah, that is shockingly familiar and intimate. So it seems anyway.
You dare to call the Master of the Universe “Father”? You dare to call the One who controls heaven and hell “Father”? You call the Omnipotent one “Father”?
Who do you think you are? It is difficult to imagine a more audacious act than to stand before the Creator of the world and to name him “Father.” And mean it. And not only to mean it, but to act and speak as a child acts and speaks before a loving and doting Dad.
It’s shocking. It’s exhilarating. And it’s beautiful beyond words.
But here’s a secret: it’s not really chutzpah. It’s not some brassy boldness that we work ourselves into, nor it is gained by swallowing a bottle of liquid spiritual courage, as it were.
To call God “Father” is simply to live in the space which Jesus created. To move from residing far from God as his enemy; or on the other side of town from him as a stranger; or down the street as an acquaintance; or in an adjoining house as a servant; and to move into our own bedroom as a child in his family. To wake up in the morning and see our Father sipping a cup of coffee and saying, “Good morning, my child,” as we respond, “Good morning, Father.”
You see, when we live in this house, when we move into the room built by Jesus, we inhabit the home not merely of a Master or Lord or King, but the one who’s given us his name and made us his own, now and forever.
“Our Father”: two of the most amazing words ever uttered. – Chad Bird
“Can a woman forget her nursing child, or lack compassion for the child of her womb? Even if these forget, yet I will not forget you. Look, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands.” – Isaiah 49:15-16
“I can forgive, but I can’t forget”. We’ve all heard it, and maybe we’ve even said it. Forgetting is a tricky business. Too often we remember and keep the wounds open when forgetting could pave the road to healing. What if we decided not to forget, BUT chose to not forget that which is best remembered.
The offense can be taken down a notch if we remember the offender is a real person with terrible failings and maybe even regrets…maybe like me. Flesh and blood. Needing a savior just like I do.
I can forget details of an offense in the remembering of a person who mattered…to God, and to me.
Remembering people who are no longer in our lives is a beautiful thing. None were perfect but some came close in the sacrificial way they loved and the authentic way they lived. They may have failed us at times, but we will do the same to our children and grandchildren. Hopefully they will remember us kindly one day. I want to lead by example in remembering those who made a difference in my life.
What brought this to mind for me this week? A young woman, 21-year-old Megan Danielle, powerfully belting out a country song, the performance of which she dedicated to her late grandfather.
American Idol is a dazzling reality TV show, bringing incredibly talented young people from small-town obscurity into the spotlight of mainstream entertainment. It’s a competition over several weeks where contestants are coached and groomed for stardom. Megan, as of this week, is in the Top 8 of the contestants. I had never heard the song “Go Rest High on That Mountain” until she sang it for America’s vote.
So beautiful. For Megan, it was for her grandfather. As I listened to her performance, precious ones now gone came to mind. In recent years, we have lost several friends, colleagues, and family members. Twenty years back, we lost Mom. She did not have an easy life, but she reflected a life surrendered to God and was always willing to forgive and to show mercy. The last three years of her life were spent dealing with a rentless cancer and treatment that failed, but that was a darkness that did nothing to quench the light of her beautiful life. I am so thankful to be her daughter. I am also thankful she has entered her rest, but I want to remember her until the day we see each other again.
Thankfully not a day goes by that Mom doesn’t come to mind. Every. Single. Day. That is something I rejoice over. She was an incredible grace from God to her children.
Who’s that grace in your life? They may have failings…they may not even be in your life right now…but you know in your heart of hearts that you are known and loved by that person…as imperfect as the relationship may be. Remember. Be reconciled if possible. We have the exquisite witness of a loving God who remembers us…who knows us by name…He will never forget we belong to Him.
Worship with me to this beautiful Vince Gill song…as we remember those glorious souls who went before us.
[Verse 1] I know your life on earth was troubled And only you could know the pain You weren’t afraid to face the devil You were no stranger to the rain
[Chorus] So go rest high on that mountain Son, your work on earth is done Go to heaven a-shoutin’ Love for the Father and the Son
[Verse 2] Oh, how we cried the day you left us We gathered round your grave to grieve Wish I could see the angels faces When they hear your sweet voice sing
[Chorus] So go rest high on that mountain Son, your work on earth is done Go to heaven a-shoutin’ Love for the Father and the Son
[Verse 3] You’re safely home in the arms of Jesus Eternal life, my brother’s found The day will come, I know I’ll see you That sacred place on that Holy ground
[Chorus] Go rest high on that mountain ‘Cause son, your work on earth is done Go to heaven a-shoutin’ Love for the Father and the Son
[Outro] Go to heaven a-shoutin’ Love for the Father and the Son*
When a father dies he leaves a legacy. Yesterday, the three sons of our friend Mike Pineda, stood on the platform, at his funeral, and spoke beautifully about their hero of a dad. He had faithfully walked alongside of them all their lives. Teaching, mentoring, and modeling. One of the lessons their dad had taught them (by word and action) was to reject passivity.
That stuck with me. What is it to resist, in fact, reject passivity? Where does the temptation to be passive come from?
We can go all the way back to the first man who lived – Adam. When the Evil One tempted him and Eve to question the goodness of God, and even though Eve seems to take lead in sinning against God (Genesis 3:6), Adam was physically present, right there with her. [This isn’t to cast greater judgment on Adam, or Eve, for that matter. It is a declarative statement of what can result from passivity.]
Men have been living in Adam’s shadow ever since. Rather than being strong dads, men often just stand there. Rather than being loving husbands, men often just stand there. Why is it that so many men are so decisive, focused, and effective in areas of life that don’t really matter, but tentative, uninspiring, and passive in some of the areas that matter most? It’s as if passivity is in our DNA. And that if we don’t actively fight it, we’ll default to being passive.
Where does passivity reign in your life? Is it at home? Or with your finances? Or in your career? Or with your wife or girlfriend? Where are you doing nothing when you should be doing something? Where are you being silent when you should be speaking up? Authentic men reject passivity. They refuse to live in the shadow of Adam and instead choose to fight for what truly matters most. They find their strength in the grace of Jesus and follow His example of rejecting passivity—ultimately by coming to earth to rescue us. – Authentic Manhood
Now, please don’t get me wrong here. I’m not trying to bash men for being passive. Maybe like Eve, we as women, hold some measure of complicity in this whole issue of passivity. Do we make it difficult for the men in our lives to act decisively? Do we act in ways that prove to be passive-aggressive and pose for men a lose-lose outcome…that either way, they will pay for “manning up”.
Even as I write, it’s a little uncomfortable having grown up in the era of women’s liberation, ERA, and feminism. Hard battles have been fought for women to fare well in the workplace. In the home as well. Yet, is it possible that one of the fruits of this movement has been men just stepping aside and letting us have our way…even when it’s not what it could have been with both men and women working better together.
Of course, we know this whole issue of passivity didn’t start a few decades ago (go back to Adam and Eve). So what do we do about it?
I’m going to talk to my sons right now. [You’re welcome to read along.]
“It’s so easy…too easy…to let others make the decisions. When others make the decision, you don’t have to accept the consequences of those decisions. You can, in many cases, let those others live with the outcomes. You can elect to go along with the decisions, or (if not required) you can step back, and let the chips fall where they may. Now if it’s work, and you’re held to a standard requiring you to go along with the decision once made, you have little recourse. You didn’t speak into it, therefore you must to some extent abide by the decision. How much better if you had entered into the decision-making yourself?
What about the larger community? Your circles of potential influence outside your work. Are you willing to sit silently…to offer nothing of your giftings, your intellect, your experience to those conversations?
What about your family? Your wife, your children? Are you willing to let others speak into their lives and you take a quieter, more disengaged space? You will find the years will go by…and the voice in their ears and hearts…is not yours? Is that really what you want?
Passivity is like a weak link in a chain…compromising the strength of that chain. In relationships, passivity is something we can correct, if we’re willing to take the perceived risk to do so.
What we expect shapes how we respond. If we expect peace, we will resent having to fight. If we expect rest, we will resent having to endure. If we expect leisure, we will resent having to work hard.
This is why it’s so important for us to prepare our minds for action.
We lose perspective and forget that in this age war, not peace, is the norm; vigilant self-control, not indulgent rest, is the norm; difficult cultivation, not easy picking, is the norm.
Our emotions typically tell us what our mind-sets are; our responses reveal our expectations. So, when weariness, disappointment, disillusionment, and resentment set in, we need to examine what’s fueling those feelings.
Our emotions springing from misplaced expectations of peace, rest, and leisure ask to be coddled. – Jon Bloom
Passivity is sometimes born out of exhaustion from battling for too long a season. Or a lack of hope when looking at the opposition. As Bloom states in his article: as we choose to stay in the battle, with a mindset to act, we resist passivity and the false sense of safety it projects.
In thinking back to our friend Mike’s funeral, his sons talked about both his rejection of passivity and his pursuit of a quiet life. He aspired “to live quietly, and to mind [his] own affairs, and to work with [his] hands (1 Thess. 4:11). This is not passive living. It takes focus, prioritizing, and hard work…out of which is the great harvest of those in your sphere of influence learning the tools of fruitful and faithful lives. By your example.
So my loves, I’ll let you get back to your lives. I see you resisting passivity. Keep nurturing that habit of life.
Stand with or stand against, but don’t allow yourselves to stand aside.“
Mike Pineda. In his sleep. February 14. 65 years old. Healthy.
It’s been a couple of years or more since we’ve seen him, but his sudden and early passing has left us stunned and clinging to God for comfort and hope.
I didn’t know Mike (or Julie, the love of his life) until 2016. There was an email of mine, in 2009, that got forwarded to him for counsel about a TCK (third culture kid) issue (we were living in North Africa at the time). Just found that email today…don’t remember the situation now.
Dave had actually met him years before. At a pivotal time in Mike’s (and Julie’s) life. Mike then showed up in our lives at another pivotal time.
In 2015, he asked Dave to work on a leadership project with him and a small group of other professionals. In 2016, I, too, entered the story. Mike was inclusive of spouses, and it was a super satisfying experience for me to be a part of these conversations. It was then I got to also meet Julie.
Sometimes, you don’t really get to fully know a person (married at least) until you see them engage with their spouse. They clearly loved and enjoyed each other. When Mike told stories, Julie would add her own color to it. Both of them, telling and listening, showed pure delight with each other’s adds…even with stories you know they have shared for years. Sweet.
Mike is one of the wisest men I know. It was a joy for us that he, Dave, and others got to put their heads together for a larger cause. In fact, until a book is written, here is something that Mike said about teaming:
“There were seven of us on the most effective team I’ve ever been on.
I had been asked to do something that I could not do. It was above and beyond me. I didn’t really even understand the problem, much less have a clue about the solution. What could I do, except to surround myself with people smarter and more gifted than me?
We were as different as any seven people you could find. We fought and we challenged, and yet together we were a team. We developed something that was good.
For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,’ that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,’ that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as He chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.
It is natural to desire all the gifts, to need no one, to overcome challenges alone. That is not the way the Body works, though. Yes, the Lord has gifted you, but He hasn’t given you all the gifts needed to accomplish what He has given you to do. He has put others in the Body with the gifts you lack.
It is also natural to seek comfort by working with people just like you.And yet, what do you gain by working with people who know what you know, act like you act and have gifts that you already have?
You need others who are not like you. You introverts need extroverts. You task-oriented folks need the people-oriented. Jethro Leroy Gibbs needs Ducky, Jean Valjean needs Cosette, the Skipper needs Gilligan, Reddington needs Keen, Andy needs Barney, and Paul needs Barnabas.
The Lord has put around you those you need to accomplish the task He has given you. You will have vastly different passions, gifts and callings. Cast aside the temptation to follow only your ideas and processes. Listen to others. Develop something together with people who are nothing like you. Work with others in a diverse Body of Christ. And rejoice.” – Mike Pineda, Facebook, November 21, 2020
I hope a book is written one day. Mike was much more about relationships and not renown. He was an excellent story-teller. What a way with words! Each year, he published an April Fools’ email. We only started receiving them in 2016, but they are funny, biting, and brilliant. I hope they are published…so fun just to think about reading every single one.
The most beautiful writing he completed was daily emails to his sons for 15 1/2 years. Every single day.
When his oldest son, Sam, went off to college, Mike began writing him. He would share what he was reading in the Bible that day, and what he gained from the Scripture, a prayer for his son, and a bit of news from his and Julie’s life. Every single day. In Mike’s funeral, Sam shared how many emails over the years – 5662. Every day.
In fact, this is exactly how the family knew something was wrong the morning of February 14. Julie was out of town, so she didn’t know yet that Mike had died sometime early morning. The email that had arrived every single day for the past over 15 years…didn’t arrive. That sounded the alarm for the kids… something was terribly wrong.
I hope the video of the funeral service for Mike stays published. We were able to watch from Virginia, unable to make it down to Tennessee for the service. It was beautiful. So God-honoring…and so like Mike’s family and friends – telling stories about him and about his faith, wisdom, and humility. His priorities of his wife, his family, and the Lord. His determination to major on what matters and let go of the rest. His joy in the simplest things in life.
If I had been there, my story would point to Mike’s courage in the face of adversity. We knew him best during a very difficult time. You know those times when things seem so muddled up that you start wondering if you’re really understanding what’s going on. Something so wrong, but it’s like the Emperor with No Clothes. Where you see something but it seems others do not (blind spots of a sort), so are you crazy or what? Without malice, Mike could name the what of what’s wrong, and did not flinch when confronting the what’s wrong. Whew! He was a modern day Daniel and we were blessed to know him.
I would have loved to hear all the stories told around the room before and after the funeral. All the stories of this week, since Mike’s Homegoing, told to comfort and reassure each other.
Mike would have enjoyed those stories, and especially the ones about his Jesus. He wouldn’t have chosen to leave his wife, kids, and grandkids so young (65, so young). However, he was one who chose to obey God in every circumstance of his life. He knew his family would be ok…in fact, better than ok.
So for us, his death seemed so early, and yet for Mike, he had finished his days…and his life’s work.
…in Your book were written All the days that were ordained for me. – Psalm 139:6
When Jacob finished charging his sons, he drew his feet into the bed and breathed his last, and was gathered to his people. – Genesis 49:33
We will glean from the stories he has told us through the years, and those told in his funeral – especially those from his three sons. Thank you, Sam, Ben, and Caleb. Also Mike’s old friends, Daryl and Elbert. You helped us get through what could have been a very hard day.
It is not too late for us to set our eyes on Christ and love well and live large… like Mike did.
[Today is Mom’s birthday – 20 of them now in Heaven. This blog adapted from the Archives. ]
Our little family has never lived close to the grandparents. This was not easy…for any of us. Before I married, I lived close to home, and Mom was my best friend. She died 20 years ago, and I still miss her every day. To people who knew her well, I would often say “when I grow up, I want to be just like her.” Still working on that.
Mom and I shared a weakness for words…they are probably excessively important to us, delivering both positive and (sometimes) negative weight. She was an amazing encourager. She rarely missed an opportunity to lift another’s spirit or to speak loving truth to someone desperate for God’s touch.
When I moved away to take a teaching job, she and my dad helped me with the move. New Haven, Connecticut would be a 2-day drive from Georgia. At that time, it was the farthest I had ever lived from home. She stayed a week to help me settle in. While there, she was such great company. We explored the city together and laughed over a new culture and cried at the missing that was ahead for us.
She filled my freezer with her baking, and, while I was at work, she wrote notes. Then she hid them everywhere. After she flew home, I began finding them. In my coffee mug. Under my pillow. In the pocket of my coat. Among my reference books. Behind my music books on the piano. She was with me in the love notes she left, and it made the distance between us…less.
My mom and I also had a weakness for bits of paper. I have kept every one of her notes. These from that move over 30 years ago are fading…red ink on pink paper. There is a lifetime of notes between Mom and me. The tradition she started on that first move has become a life-long tradition for our family. Our visits back and forth, across the US and then the globe, have been papered by these little notes.
Our children, from the time they could write, entered into this tradition much to the joy of their grandparents. Before we would leave from visits with them, these three young ones would write of their affection for their grandparents and hide them all over their houses. I delighted in their cooperation in this conspiracy of love.
Mom always wrote notes…not just to us but to so many. She and her Sunday School Class ladies would send cards every week to the sick ones or the sad ones. She had a special burden for the elderly, for widows (including functional widows, deserted by husbands) and for fatherless children (again including those “orphaned” by still-living fathers). She inspired me by her humble ambition .
Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world. – James 1:27
I am so thankful for my mom’s bits of paper…for her love…and for her perseverance in encouraging and serving others. Her generation is sadly almost gone, and it is for us to pick up these traditions, or traditions like them. Passing them on somehow to the next generations…Maybe there won’t be bits of paper or love notes like in the past. I do hope we still take the time to write. Definitely, the call to serve and to encourage is as current as ever. My life continues to be rich with those, young and old, who reach out with words of kindness and encouragement. Written or spoken, they are love notes to the heart.
Thanks, Mom. After twenty years, many may have forgotten you for now. Many more won’t know of you this side of Heaven. Your life may have seemed small, but it was larger than life to me. Thank God for you.
Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing. – 1 Thessalonians 5:11